A multigenerational, family-owned farm striving to be a no-waste operation is one step closer with the help of an indigenous insect called the black soldier fly.

White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, GA, which raises, processes and packages livestock and poultry on-site, received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) producer grant to turn the black soldier fly into a value-added tool of making compost, while also serving as a protein source for chickens.

“We are taking an unwanted by-product of livestock processing that has a negative value and creating a higher and better use for it through black soldier flies by creating two value-added products – compost and supplemental feed,” says farm owner Will Harris. “We are creating these products using a resource that is already available to us and without using any energy.”

The black soldier fly, native to North America, does not bite, nor is it known to carry any diseases. In addition, the larvae (also known as mealworms) are scavengers, thriving on several kinds of decaying matter, such as carrion, manure, plant refuse and waste products. With a dry weight protein content of roughly 42% and a fat content of about 34%, the larvae also make ideal, inexpensive feed for chickens.

For project investigators Hilary Halford and Tripp Eldridge, the black soldier fly perfectly aligns with the 1,000-acre farm's goal of zero waste through compost development.

White Oak Pastures repurposes what it produces on the farm by creating manure compost, recycling all the wastewater and using an anaerobic digester, which generates 1,000 gal. of liquid fertilizer a day. In addition, the farm houses passive solar water heaters on the roofs of buildings to heat water used in livestock processing and a 50,000-watt solar voltaic array to power the processing plant.

For more information on White Oak Pastures, visithttp://whiteoakpastures.com/.